About the Big HOle River Drought Management Plan

Shared Sacrifice, Shared Success

The Big Hole River Drought Management Plan designates target river flow and temperature conditions for fish health in five river sections of the Big Hole River. The plan includes voluntary conservation targets for all water users, MFWP fishing restriction criteria, and information tools. Conservation actions are designed support the health of the fishery.

The plan outlines voluntary conservation actions and relies on Shared Sacrifice, Shared Success – if all users sacrifice, we can all be successful in protecting the fishery. The plan also designates MFWP fishing restrictions when drought conditions reach critical levels.

The BHWC DMP originated in 1997. The plan is reviewed annually by a committee made up of irrigators, fishermen, conservation groups, and agency representatives as well as the entire BHWC.

River Conditions

Streamflow Forecast

From Jacqueline Knutson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Hydrologist. As of 2/20/2019:

Streamflows: Gages are seasonal and are not currently reporting flows.

Snowpack: Snowpack conditions improved across Montana last month but many basins are teetering around average and the Beaverhead Basin received the least amount of precipitation in January. Currently the snowpack in the Big Hole Basin is below average, sitting just below 90% of normal. The Jefferson Basin is 103% of normal. March through May often yield a significant portion of the yearly snowpack and peak snowpack typically occurs in late April or May so we still have time to accumulate a solid snowpack and, as always, timing and availability of runoff will be the most important factor to our streamflows in the spring and early summer.

Precipitation: January precipitation was especially low in the Beaverhead Basin but the Big Hole Basin and areas along the Divide managed to stay near, although still below, normal for the month. The last two weeks of January helped to boost the Jefferson Basin back towards average and February has been off to a good start. With a weak El Nino persisting through the spring it is possible we will see the same low to average precipitation for the next few months.

Temperatures: Valley air temperatures for January were above normal averaging 2-4 degrees above for the month. Early February temperatures, however, have dipped below normal but are expected to increase again as spring progresses.

Forecast: El Nino conditions formed in January and are expected to continue through the spring. Although this is a weak El Nino event we have seen the effects on precipitation in January especially. The three-month outlook currently favors average precipitation through the rest of the spring and above average temperatures through the early spring. The most up-to-date 3-month outlook will be published on NOAA’s website on Thursday and will include the most recent El Nino diagnostics.

View the Forecast Details

2016 Fundraising


2018 USGS Gage Bill:

Water Temperature at Big Hole River @ Wise River (Dickie Bridge), Maiden Rock, and Notch Bottom (Glen):

USGS Flow Gages for Upper Big Hole CCAA program:

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Wise River Real-Time Gage

Success Story

The Wise River real-time gage was installed near the mouth of the Wise River October 2015. The Big Hole Watershed Committee sought installation in order to continue flow and temperature monitoring in the Wise River, as well provide information for Wise River irrigators. The gage reports flow, stage and water temperature in real-time via Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Surface Water website. The gage is part of the 2015 launch of DNRC & Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology real-time monitoring system for small streams, who installed and operates the gage. Funding was provided by Big Hole Watershed Committee, The Nature Conservancy, and Montana Trout Unlimited and is graciously hosted on the PKR Ranch. The Big Hole Watershed Committee in partnership with DNRC, MFWP, and Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology have been conducting monitoring of the Wise River surface and groundwater since 2011.

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